"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, May 24, 2010

School Community Council Conversation

I had a nice discussion the other day with a member of one of our School Community Councils(SCC). I have known people who have served on the SCC's in the past, and have seen the flyers and voting for members of the SCC, but I had never realized that the SCC's are responsible for the school trust lands money. I always assumed that the district or the State determined what was to be done with that. (BTW, the school trust monies amount to about 1/2 of 1% of each school's budget, on average.)

Some of the things we discussed were reading the minutes of the school board meetings, how much time will I devote to the school board, and what her perception was from moving from out of state a few years back.

I really appreciated the conversation. It was helpful to have input from another perspective, and here is what I've done.

1) One of my first thoughts was how often do average people read the minutes for any meetings? Unless we have issues with things, we usually just ignore them. However, we need to know what the main issues are in order to affect a direction. After the conversation, I tried to find the minutes. I was able to find the April 20 minutes. It takes some doing to get to them when you first look. As a member of the school board, I would like the district to be more pro-active in getting the minutes and issues out to the community. Currently, my city allows subscribers to receive agendas via email. This wouldn't be difficult to implement at the district level.

My thoughts on the minutes.

Overall, other than the community comments (most of which were about the mission statement and "enculturating"...more on that in a later post), I didn't find the minutes to be all that helpful. The property items struck me as the most important information to be gleaned. They mentioned that my opponent, Mrs. Hanneman, voted against ceding some of the Lone Peak HS property to UDOT for the widening of 4800 W. The minutes do not give specifics other than to say that she voted against this and would have preferred a 4 lane road. My SCC council contact mentioned that it was 25 feet in front of the school, allowing for a wider road that would come closer to the existing school entrance. This specific information would have been helpful to have in the minutes. It would have been even better for people from the Lone Peak area to be able to have a say on this issue prior to the vote. I assume that no one knew about it, as it isn't referenced at all in the community comments. In light of my contact's information, I agree whole-heartedly with my opponent's vote on this issue.

2) I have found in life that projecting how much time something will take is a moving target. The more you have done something, the better your estimates will be. If you've never done it, you will be way off. I am committed to spending as much time as it takes on school board issues. I am also committed to spending no more than that amount of time. If there are efficiencies to be found, I will find them. I have experience doing that in my business, which is why I can operate a full-time business and still be an 'at home' mom.

3) My SCC contact was concerned with academic excellence and encouragement. In her previous state, her child read Beowulf in sixth grade. In our district, it is a high school (or late middle school) requirement. Also, kids in AP classes in the old state, pushed and encouraged each other and were proud of their accomplishments. Here, the kids that are in AP classes don't see it as a good thing, but rather as inhibiting social status. She also mentioned that the top 10% of graduating students were automatically accepted to state colleges and universities. She would like to see a program like that in Utah.

I appreciate the time that she took to contact me, and to give me more information. This is the type of transparency and input that the board and the district need to encourage, not just from those appointed and filling notable positions (SCC, District Community Councils) but from every day people, parents, students, and teachers.

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